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Day 105: Gantey to Thimpu

Michael Palin - HimalayaBearing this in mind, I end the day sampling one of the night-spots of Thimpu, a decorous, well-behaved snooker bar called Rumours. Pretty girls smash balls around the table like old pros and a television set is tuned to live coverage of England's cricket match with the West Indies in Barbados.

Benji, who doesn't like to miss a get-together is sitting at the bar with me and his attractive and urbane cousin Khendum. The talk meanders round to reincarnation. Khendum admits she has 'a little problem with reincarnation'.

She doesn't believe in it.

'I can't reconcile my practising of Buddhism with that aspect of it,' she says with an admirable directness.

Benji has definite preferences.

'I'd like to be reborn as a black 7 foot 6 basketball player who earns a lot of money.'

Khendum gives me a wry smile.

'He'll be a cockroach.'

'Thank you. Thank you very much,' says Benji courteously.

She and Benji are both part of Bhutan's privileged, wealthy, cosmopolitan elite. Like Tsewang, they're outward-looking and internationalist, and though they are fiercely proud of their country's cultural protectionism, all of them accept that change is accelerating and inevitable. As Khendum says, 'We're not romantic or idealistic enough to think that things will always be the way they are now, but we'd like to slow the development process up to a degree that we can handle change when it comes.'

Realistic, sensible and a trifle wistful at the same time.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 105: Gantey to Thimpu
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Thimpu
  • Book page no: 247

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